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» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

12 Jan 2011

Scramble for the Ball: Wild Weekend

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

One And Done

Tom: So, Mike, like last year, I am in last place in Playoff Fantasy after the first week. This is what happens when you make your team largely out of players with byes.

Mike: True, but as we have discussed, these teams have byes for a reason.

Tom: Yes. Ben Muth is in first place right now, but he only has three players left. He had four players in double figures, but Drew Brees, Pierre Garcon, and Garrett Hartley won't be doing that again this season.

Mike: I bet he's surprised those are the guys he lost.

Tom: Well, Garcon isn't too much of a surprise, and he does still have LaDainian Tomlinson from that game. But, yes, those Saints players ...

Mike: There are no words.

Tom: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Mike: Especially not that one.

Tom: But it's the thing to say when you don't know what else to say. Or, like Ratatouille, have you not seen Mary Poppins?

Mike: There's a pretty big difference between the two in notoriety.

Tom: Well, probably.

Mike: The difference between making a joke about nessum dorma and a joke about ho una casa nell'honan.

Tom: Perhaps if you explained that in Japanese, I'd understand it better.

Mike: Kazemikase Tsukikage Ran vs. Akira.

Tom: Gotcha, sort of. Anyway, when we go ahead and found Movie Outsiders, we'll discuss the relative merits of Remy the Rat and chimney sweeps.

Mike: Dick Van Dyke has admitted his accent was awful, so I am at peace with Mary Poppins.

Tom: I don't know quite what you thought of this weekend's games. We had some pretty competitive contests, but aside from the magnitude of Seattle's upset, I'm not sure what we'll remember of this weekend in the future.

Mike: We'll probably only really remember Seattle if they make some more noise. I will probably remember Packers-Eagles for a while, at least. It was a good game.

Tom: I guess Marshawn Lynch's run was pretty memorable, although I think it's been a little overpraised -- or at least I would have esteemed it more if New Orleans had been doing something on defense.

Mike: Yeah, as I said in audibles, while I like Lynch and am happy he got his run put to Super Mario Bros. sound effects, that play was a lot more about how bad New Orleans's tackling is. Then again, when was the last instant classic we had in the wild card round?

Tom: Anyway, we move on to the next round of games, when we will actually see the best teams in each conference, plus the Bears and Seahawks. And Cardinals-Packers, last year.

Mike: I don't even remember that game.

Tom: The Cardinals built a huge lead, then the Packers came back and tied it. The game went to overtime. Rodgers just missed an open Jennings, I believe, on what would have been a winning touchdown, then fumbled on his last chance to win the game.

Mike: That sounds vaguely familiar, but I agree, we have better teams now, we should get better games.

Tom: It sort of lagged for a while, then got really interesting very quickly. I think that's a more common feature of "great games" than we normally admit.

Mike: True.

Tom: Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams-Titans) was mostly a dull, one-sided game for two-and-a-half quarters. Super Bowl XXXVIII (Patiots-Panthers) had about 40 dull minutes between most of the first half and some of the second. It's difficult to sustain the sort of breakneck intensity that makes for great games for the whole thing, it seems.

Mike: Well, and if there's a lot of exciting things going on, cynics like myself will just say it's poor play instead of exceptional effort. Football fans: impossible to please.

Tom: And so we are.


FO Playoff Wild Card Results
QB RB RB WR WR WR TE K DEF Total

Mike Matt Ryan -- Ray Rice 15 LeSean McCoy 7 Marques Colston 6 Anquan Boldin 12 Johnny Knox -- Heath Miller -- Matt Bryant -- Bears -- 40
Tom Tom Brady -- Matt Forte -- Pierre Thomas 0 Roddy White -- Deion Branch -- Brandon Tate -- Rob Gronkowski -- Shayne Graham -- Patriots -- 0
Dave Ben Roethlisberger -- Michael Turner -- Joseph Addai 6 Greg Jennings 0 Wes Welker -- Hines Ward -- Jacob Tamme 4 Adam Vinatieri 14 Falcons -- 24
Sean Aaron Rodgers 19 Jamaal Charles 13 Shonn Greene 7 Reggie Wayne 0 Santonio Holmes 4 Braylon Edwards 6 Dustin Keller 4 Mason Crosby 3 Ravens 12 68
Tim Peyton Manning 15 Rashard Mendenhall -- Reggie Bush 4 Mike Wallace -- DeSean Jackson 4 Blair White 5 Brent Celek 2 David Akers 4 Steelers -- 34
Ben Drew Brees 28 BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- Ladainian Tomlinson 21 Dwayne Bowe 0 Pierre Garcon 17 Jeremy Maclin 7 Tony Gonzalez -- Garrett Hartley 12 Saints -5 80

Best of the Rest

Three of the four best quarterback scores opening weekend were put up by Best of the Rest quarterbacks. If you had Joe Flacco or Matt Hasselbeck, you have a chance to continue your run. If you were one of the many who had Michael Vick, not so much. Our first week leader is turbohappy with 82 points, thanks to Flacco and Lynch, followed closely by Sid's 79 points (Vick, alas), Stats are for losers (not verified, I remind you) with 77 points (Vick as well), and roguerouge's 75 (Flacco). If you want a playoff fantasy sleeper, look at Packers running back James Starks as he attempts to replicate Shonn Greene's success from last as a standout who goes unpicked among both staffers and commenters.

BEER. IN. SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE.


Tom: At long last, we have found this commercial. It's been up since November 8, and it only has 26 views.

Mike: Oh, it is on, perhaps in a similar fashion to some tie-bearing ape. I can tell you why it only has 26 views: It is AWFUL. Also, I think my browser just crashed in protest. For serious, this isn't working.

Tom: Yes, but it's a beer commercial. Even the worst beer commercials shown on national television have lots more views than that.

Mike: There we go. I will say that despite the precedent of Star Trek being filmed largely at a brewery, Coors mission control has no booze-related trappings, which seems like an oversight.

Tom: I know. You'd think we'd at least all see them cracking open a cold Coors Light once they had liftoff.

Mike: Well, that depends on what all that Coors loaded into the beer-shuttle was doing. If it were, say their rocket fuel, then it would make sense. We would live in some world where Coors was our most precious natural resource.

Tom: Or, rather, to promote the Silver Bullet Pint, twisting the cap off the half-drunk one they'd saved for later.

Mike: See, that makes sense. There's no actual demonstration of the usefulness of the product aside from the fact that you could perhaps create a giant fake Cape Canaveral out of Lego and program it to remove and replace the cap to your metal pint of cheap beer.

Tom: Like this?

Mike: Something like that.

Tom: Oh, and if they really want to be cool, they'd show us in the final shot the Canadarm opening a beer can. Yes, that Lego set had the Canadarm if you opened the interior.

Mike: I really shouldn't have mentioned Legos.

Tom: No, you shouldn't have. But that's just another thing Coors could have included in their commercial that would've made it better.

Mike: Anyway, they say "Houston, we have refreshment." WHO ARE THEY REFRESHING?

Tom: SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE, I guess.

Mike: I refuse to believe that rubber forehead aliens would visit earth just to try and drink out of a giant screw-cap pint.

Tom: Maybe you can use the Silver Bullet Pint to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, and aliens would find that sort of thing useful on those long interstellar voyages.

Mike: Aluminum is way too conductive to insulate.

Tom: So you're telling me if I tried actually launching a Silver Bullet Pint into space, there's no way it'd actually make it there? I feel like I need to bring a complaint against Coors Light with the FTC.

Mike: Tom's dreams of firing thousands of gallons of beer into LEO have been dashed by the harsh reality that Coors is full of it. For shame.

Tom: Yeah, pretty much. As somebody who'd pretty much a teetotaler, that would've been pretty much beer's highest and best use to me.

Mike: I'm not sure there is a better use for Coors, at least.

Tom: Actually, I do now recall making fun of my housemate's girlfriend and her roommates in college for having Coors Light as the only beer in their fridge. Since Low Earth Orbit isn't a possibility, that may be the highest and best use I'll ever actually find for Coors Light.

Mike: It is interesting that they at least get the water below the boosters concept correct, albeit in a different phase. As we alluded to earlier, there's remarkable attention to detail in this commercial where the trappings of real space travel are preserved, which makes the fact that we're talking about a giant beer can even more jarring.

Tom: I like the pseudo-mountains in the background when they put the cap in place and lock it. Cape Canaveral, Colorado!

Mike: Well, if it weren't for the mountains, you wouldn't know it was cold! Which is why Antarctica is the rockiest place on earth, and also home of the best beer.

Awards? Awards!

KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Touchdown, Seahawks. Touchdown, Seahawks. Big play, Seahawks. Touchdown, Seahawks. Those plays kept happening, and most of them had one thing in common: Saints safety Roman Harper allegedly in "coverage" on the play. Your Scramble writers are not sure any New Orleans defenders had a good game Saturday, but Harper was the worst.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Your Scramble writers were chatting apart from the Audibles e-mails over the weekend, as is their wont, and decided on three separate and independent occasions to give Colts coach Jim Caldwell this week's Martz Award: for his inexplicable early challenge of Santonio Holmes' alleged punt muff, for a seeming willingness to accept a 50-yard field goal attempt to win the game, and for the inexplicable timeout with 29 seconds left that forced the Jets to run another play rather than giving them the option of settling for a long field goal attempt. For good measure, Caldwell also elected not to try at the end of the first half. This wasn't the kind of decision we like to give the Martz Award for, but it was yet another questionable call.

COLBERT AWARD: You have one of the league's best quarterbacks, an explosive passing game, and a running game that's struggled all year to gain consistent yardage. Naturally, Packers coach Mike McCarthy elects to call for a nearly even split between running plays and passing plays, putting the load on undrafted rookie running back James Starks, who's had trouble getting in the lineup. The result: 23 carries for 123 yards for Starks and a playoff victory for the Packers.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower on 12 Jan 2011

32 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2011, 5:32pm by Kevin from Philly

Comments

1
by Led :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 6:16pm

"for a seeming willingness to accept a 50-yard field goal attempt to win the game"

Que? They didn't "accept" a 50 yard figgie -- they got stopped on a 3rd down pass attempt.

2
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 7:31pm

Once they reached that point in the field, though, they went into ultra-conservative mode. 2 runs that went nowhere, IIRC, followed by the safest throw Peyton could make, with zero chance of interception and only marginal chance of reception (at least by an undrafted rookie). They clearly weren't taking the approach that they took against the Patriots, where Peyton went for the big play rather than settle for a FG to tie.

14
by Dave :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 2:39am

I think they wanted another first down and the Jets just played well enough to prevent it. They went cover zero out of nowhere and made the stops. White could've and maybe should've caught that one, of course. But that sequence was the least of my many concerns in that game. It wasn't optimal, but it didn't offend me.

The previous drive, where it was clear after the first down incompletion that they were going to play safe and kick (and then assume the defense would get the ball back), was the odder decision, I thought. The D did get it back - twice even - but at that point that was quite the leap of faith.

3
by Spielman :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 8:07pm

I'm sort of horrified that Mike doesn't remember Cardinals-Packers.

6
by dmb :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 10:27pm

"Horrified" would definitely be an overstatement of my reaction, but I was definitely surprised. Maybe he's like my brother, who likes good defensive play and detests high-scoring matches. I think the more sensible view is that although it's nice when teams are playing at the highest level on both sides of the ball, any close game can be entertaining (even if it's just for the comedy), and those with unusually high or low score can be particularly memorable.

10
by Mike Kurtz :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 11:46pm

"Maybe he's like my brother, who likes good defensive play and detests high-scoring matches."

This. As I mentioned earlier, my first thought on the Lynch touchdown was not "holy cow he's gone beast mode," but rather "holy cow nobody on the Saints is capable of tackling." So that colors both my perceptions and my memory.

Football is a great game that there's room for die-hard defense lovers like me (who feel that the forward pass is somehow cheating) and people who live for shoot-outs.

12
by dmb :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 2:25am

Yeah, I think you may have mentioned this preference in a previous Scramble column, because it was my first thought when I read your impressions (or lack thereof) from the GB-ARI game.

15
by Jerry :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 3:16am

Enjoy Saturday afternoon's game.

17
by Dired :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 8:49am

As a loyal Seattle fan who expects nothing, I was really excited that he got the first down. When he kept going, it was something weird and kind of scary - we have no running game! Our guys don't keep going! What the hell is going on (and yeah, in the voice and sort-of-video of Vince Lombardi)? And then once he got 20 yards down, I was just screaming "Beast Mode!!!" Even against a tackle-optional defense like the Saints, that's way mroe than we were expecting.

The beauty of cheering for a third-rate (hell, we've been in the playoffs frequently in the recent past, so the Hawks aren't like, say, the Bengals or Lions) is that a little bit of success goes so very, very long. This was a rebuilding year - 5-11 was going to be satisfying. But divisional round? Bacon and gravy and cocaine and stock options, baby!

18
by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 10:04am

This is probably the greatest comment in FO history (non-ROBO PUNTER division).

25
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 4:26pm

I actually somewhat agree with this statement.

Packers-Cardinals was kind of boring to me. The defenses were so useless the offenses might as well have just been doing a full speed walkthrough. Oh look the QB is dropping back and completing a 20 yard pass for the 15th time, yawn.

The fun of football, to me, comes from the struggle and there no struggle in that game. It is ironic that the game ended on a defensive play.

26
by Arkaein :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 4:53pm

But there was struggle. it wasn't just back and forth scoring, Arizona built (I believe) a 24 point lead, and GB looked totally out of it by late 2nd quarter. Then they got a FG, a TD to start the second half, and then another TD after a successful onsides kick (I think I have the order right here, in any case you get the idea).

GB's last or second to last TD came on 4th down. jennings and Finley made some great individual catches. I'd take those over some "defensive" games that involve off-target and dropped passes, fumbles, etc.

Maybe it's because I'm a GB fan, but that game was plenty exciting. I think a lot of fans without a stake in the outcome may have watched the first half and written the game off before GB mounted its epic comeback. Us GB and Arizona fans felt lpenty of drama and struggle.

27
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 5:06pm

It was exciting in the sense that you didn't know who would win, and there was a lot of players running down the field with the ball.

I just didn't care for it personally.

Green Bay was held scoreless in the first quarter, but after that it was basically just back and forth scoring. The teams combined for 2 punts, and other than an early Rodgers pick, every other stop was a fumble.

4
by Arkaein :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 8:33pm

Starks was actually a 6th round pick, not undrafted.

Likewise horrified that a football writer would forget Cardinals-Packers that quickly.

5
by andrew :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 8:47pm

Can awards go to college games? There were some pretty gutsy calls int he auburn-oregon...

7
by dmb :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 10:31pm

I know this is off-topic, but since the whole premise of the column has always been slightly off-topic...

I just wanted to comment that I'm highly amused by the vast difference in the sidebar ads. "Adult" topics one day, then a kid's book by Tony Dungy the next? Awesome. (I know, they may have been changed due to complaints. I don't really care where they get their ad revenue from (as long as it's not supporting genocide, etc.); I just think the stark contrast is interesting.)

8
by Paul R :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 10:57pm

"Tony Dungy's 10 Mistakes Men Make in Bed..."

9
by Athelas :: Wed, 01/12/2011 - 11:05pm

Ewwwwwww.

24
by Tri Shanku (not verified) :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 3:27pm

Like what, not going for it when game's on the line? :-)

29
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 9:44pm

Now it's all gambling ads and no porn. That should keep TMQ away.

21
by Drunkmonkey :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 1:03pm

OK, I know that this should not be a reason to not like anybody, and that using Kissing Suzy Kolber for any moral judgements is probably just as bad, if not worse, then quoting South Park in papers for school (it's college, not high school, so it's not too bad), but after reading Rex Ryan: Greatest Coach Ever, my opinion of Dungy has kind of changed for the worse in that I do think he should keep his opinions of how Rex Ryan runs his team to himself. So he swears, what about it? People aren't tuning into football games and their post-game pressers for moral salvation and guidance. At least, they shouldn't be. Like I mentioned earlier, that's what I have South Park for.

I know that's even more off topic, but I actually hadn't noticed the children's book until reading your comment, and it made me think of Dungy from the RR:GCE series.

22
by dmb :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 1:26pm

"quoting South Park in papers for school..."

I like that you happened to bring this up in a reply to my post, because I actually did briefly mention an episode of South Park in a footnote of a paper as a college freshman. I don't believe I quoted it, however. (At that point in the paper, I was discussing the coverage / treatment of Scientology in the media and popular culture, so it was actually a relevant reference!)

23
by Drunkmonkey :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 2:57pm

I usually go with Cartman and his "Respect my Authoritaaaaah" in my political science papers. I will source it just because all my teachers expect it, and know it's bound to happen.

11
by Mike Y :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 12:38am

Ok, Cardinals-Packers, and Saints-Seahawks are two of the most memorable games of recent years! What game has been better than the 51-45 OT Cardinals-Packers game recently? And a 7-9 team won against the defending Super Bowl champs in a close game that involved one of the best runs you will ever see! What game has been better in the last 5 years? 10 years?

19
by ammek :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 10:46am

I'll play the grinch here if you like. I didn't enjoy Seahawks-Saints at all. I'm not anti-forward pass; on the contrary, I don't think there's anything as spectacular in the game as a great catch. However, aside from one play, Seattle's receivers and running backs didn't do anything extraordinary. The Saints coverage and tackling were simply unwatchable. It felt like watching the ProBowl, with one team just having fun out there, and the other thinking about surfing and cocktails.

Furthermore, as a Seattle victory became more inevitable, I was pissed off at the thought of another crappy and probably uncompetitive NFC playoff game this coming weekend, in a year where some deserving and entertaining teams (Bucs, Giants) missed out.

The NFC West is a mystery: it's been consistently awful in the regular season since 2003, yet it has a playoff win in every one of those years. Just as mystifying is the Saints' defensive ranking in DVOA in 2010. Top ten?

13
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 2:33am

Wow, cool! I just need a Ravens-Seahawks Super Bowl and I can take this thing down!

31
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 9:22am

The Seahawks making the Super Bowl would be even more shocking than the 1999 Rams. At least with the Rams, you could see by mid-season they were a much better team than prognosticated.

16
by roguerouge :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 8:28am

Yay! I'm temporarily notable!

28
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 9:38pm

I wasn't going to win this one, anyway.

20
by idembsky :: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 12:36pm

I wish I'd had the guts to add John Carlson to my 'All Seahawks' team instead of taking Greg Olsen. That was dumb. Oh well, go Seahawks!

30
by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 8:15am

Coors Light in space? Dudes, Montgomery Scott has a still back in Engineering.

32
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 5:32pm

It's...green.